berlin city guide
It was my first trip to Berlin and yet I immediately fell in love and started planning my new life in Berlin. I was intrigued by the contrast of the old and the new, the revolt of colour and art against the heavy history that can still be felt in parts of the city. This is a city of change and that is what makes it so fascinating. Being from London, I did not think I would find another city with such variety and soul. Berlin has all the amenities and attractions of a large city but with space and a streak of individuality that sets it apart. One walk along the streets of Berlin and you can feel both the weight of the history around you but also the youth and vibrancy that change and a new generation has brought.
There are still two different parts to Berlin; western Berlin is more trendy and upmarket with more of a metropolitan feel. The East however, has some of the best street art going, much of it on the Berlin Wall. It has a shabby chic vibe to it with pop up bars and tucked away music venues, as well as street performers.
On my first evening I encountered the diversity of the city first hand. I was planning on gorging on bratwurst and pretzels and somehow ended up in a Turkish restaurant, having been drawn in by the delicious smell of homemade pizza and authentic kebabs. It was a great introduction to Berlin life and was part of the reason I immediately felt at home in this multi-cultural/diverse and lively city.
In addition to this, I was there in October and the weather was fabulous!
I usually opt to stay in an apartment as I travel a lot and try to keep costs down. However, if you’re as obsessed with rooftop bars as I am, then Hotel Zoe is the place to stay! It is very central and near to plenty of attractions. The bar downstairs specialises in gin and has the most amazing drinks, which you can take up and enjoy on the roof while looking out over Berlin. Linnen in Prenzlauerberg is good if you want a more homely feel as it is designed to make you feel as though you are in your own home, with the added bonus of being able to ask for tips and recommendations from the owners.
There is no lack of places to eat in Berlin, and the variety of cuisines on offer is immense. Vin Pearl, on the Helmholzplatz (square) in Prenzlauerberg, caught my eye with lovely outdoor seating and a very relaxing vibe. Even in October, with the outdoor heaters, it was fabulous eating al fresco! The vast bowl of Pho - Vietnamese soup – kept me very warm indeed. The menu was quality over quantity and the service was great too.
If you're looking for Italian food, head over to Hackecher Markt and you will find Trattoria Ossena. If you are still hungry after walking through a food market to get there, you will find a variety of pizza, pasta and meat dishes. A gorgeous interior, it’s a great place for a romantic meal. I went here for my 6-year anniversary with my partner and it was very special!
Then if you are in the mood for some upmarket chicken wings head over to The Bird for the best American food around. Make sure to book in advance, as it gets very busy! The Bird has a very hip/edgy atmosphere and has large tables where different parties of people can sit together. The food can only be described as divine, definitely not for the health conscious but ideal for food lovers!
If you are hungry for a proper German Bratwurst sausage and a Stein – a huge amount of beer – Prater is a German beer hall with the roof taken off and surrounded by trees. Despite being in Central Berlin, you are cut off and completely forget about the hustle and bustle of the city streets. It is also just behind a theater, so you can watch actors rehearsing while you drink a beer and eat Bratwurst and pretzels.
For a serious amount of German food after your visit to the Grunewald, a forest just on the outskirts of Berlin, I have the place for you! For the largest Schnitzel – breaded chicken or pork – Restaurant Scheune, just before the train station at Grunewald will fill you up. For dessert, one of the best Apple Strudels I have had!
East Side Gallery – Murals on the former Berlin Wall are a must see, with some incredible artwork. It is situated along the canal so has a lovely view when you are on the other side too. And it is free!
Pergamon Museum – Incredible, some even life size ruins inside from various eras. Situated on Museum Island.
Teufelsberg – A hidden gem. A former US listening station, this can be found on top of a hill in the middle of the forest – Grunewald. Full of street art, as artists have taken over this abandoned area. It also offers a 360 degree view over the whole of Berlin.
Topography of Terror - A very interesting but sad exhibition about the war and the impact on Berlin and about the capture of German war criminals after WWII was over. But I would make sure you have something more upbeat planned for after.
For some great architecture – Visit the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate.